All posts by dscales24

I am a wife, mother, and grandmother who enjoys sharing life experiences through writing short, lighthearted articles. These are intended to entertain, inspire, motivate, and inform my readers. I hope to receive responses in which readers tell me if they relate to the articles and share with me ideas that my writings generated in them.

SQUEAKING ALONG

Your home is a complex machine that requires regular oiling for optimum performance.

As a homemaker, I’ve squeaked along for over 40 years.

Like a Farmers Insurance agent, “I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.”

Allow me to share a bit of my knowledge.

This piece is practical, not fanciful or filled with sentiment. I will not advise you to hug your kids every day and tell your husband every morning you love him. I assume you do those things.

Suggestion 1

When you buy totes for storage, buy transparent ones. You can tell at a glance what is inside those totes.

Yes, you can label nontransparent totes and cardboard boxes. At this moment, millions of such mystery containers sit on closet shelves and garage floors with their labels turned stubbornly toward the wall.

Suggestion 2

Buy gasoline and toilet paper before you need them. You cannot go without these essentials.

Suggestion 3

Decide early in the day what your dinner plans are. Deciding early prevents last-minute panic and gives you time to go to the store or thaw frozen foods.

Don’t subject yourself and your family to uninterrupted nights of fast-food dinners or Stouffers’ frozen ziti.

Suggestion 4

When you and the family go out to eat, decide before you leave the house where you will go. Don’t drive three miles south and realize you crave cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, which requires driving north.

Suggestion 5

Don’t lie to yourself. If you have forever put off doing a task, admit you will not do it.

Then either resolve to live with the grimy windows and dusty bookshelves OR hire someone to do the job.

Choose the second option only if you can afford it. Don’t use the kids’ school lunch money to pay a gutter cleaner.

Suggestion 6

Clean up your own messes but do not presume to clean up messes left by other adults.

A few months ago, I tidied up Dan’s workspace around his computer. I threw away out-of-date tool catalogs, old maps from the late 1990s, and junk mail advertising special offers whose end dates had come and gone.

Dan had wanted to keep these things for reasons he stated but I can’t now remember.

One woman’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Suggestion 7

Always carry cash. Coins and bills are convenient when paying for small purchases such as a cup of frozen custard at Ritter’s or a 50-cent library fine.

Several years ago, my daughter (name withheld) paid for everything with her debit card. She then stuffed dozens of receipts into her wallet. Her wallet no longer zipped and became the size and shape of a boxing glove. Balancing her checkbook was a nightmare.

Carry twenty dollars, more or less.

Suggestion 8

Give yourself permission not to finish everything you start. If at one time you wanted to knit and now have a bathtub-size container filled with yarn, needles and patterns you will never use, get rid of them.

You’re too smart to hang on to useless things.

Suggestion 9

Open your mail while standing beside a trash can or recycling bin. That is where most of the pieces will go, so save yourself some steps.

Suggestion 10

This suggestion is based upon something my wise father-in-law said: Some decisions need to be made only once.

Here are four of my once-and-forever decisions:

  • I will go to church every week.
  • I and everyone else in my vehicle will wear a seatbelt.
  • I will not dogear a page in a book.
  • I will not give unsolicited advice.

Oops.

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CALL THE MAN!

My husband is a do-it-yourself person. Few home-related projects exist that he will not tackle.

We moved nine years ago from a house we lived in for over 30 years. Both our children were born and grew up while we lived there. Leaving behind thousands of good memories was hard.

Dan pulled and/or dug up dozens of overgrown shrubs and bushes on that property. He then planted, pruned, fertilized and otherwise cared for new ones. He put a new roof on the house.

He replaced a water heater and well pump, painted and/or wallpapered every wall inside the house several times, and fixed toilets. He replaced floors and laid carpet and laminate flooring. He hung ceiling lights and fans.

He redesigned closets and built numberless shelves and cabinets. Whenever a thing broke, he fixed it himself.

He replaced a washer, dryer, refrigerator, well pump, and even an old oven that quit working the night before Thanksgiving.

He assembled bikes, skateboards, scooters, and basketball goals. He built trellises and flower boxes and landscaped the entire yard more than once. He unloaded tons of crushed stone. He planted and tended big gardens.

He single-handedly hung drywall on the garage ceiling.

Over the years, we made additions to our property several times: added a family room and a screened-in back porch and built a large two-car-plus size garage. We converted our old garage into a game room.

Dan did 90% of the work himself. (Dan says I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.)

Through trial and error, he became an experienced plumber, electrician, painter, drywall hanger, landscape artist, appliance repairman, carpenter, roofer, screener, and mechanic.

Dan resisted paying experts to do any of the work. When he did, he asked the workers to leave unfinished work he could do himself.

Dan accomplished these projects and dozens more while working as a full-time pharmacist.

We have now lived in our “new” house for nine years. Dan has completed the same tasks on this property.

Yesterday, I drove home to find him working at the back of our yard. Bushes, trees, briars, brambles, weeds, fallen branches, and every other growing thing shrouded him.

He emerged from his trimming, pulling, and chopping tasks, bleeding from many cuts and scrapes. Sweat soaked his shirt.

I studied this now 60-something-year-old man, and once again I marveled at his dogged determination to care for our property.

This man must start paying people to do this work, I thought.

“Dan,” I said to him, “Don’t you know we are on our way out?”

“What do you mean?” he said.

“We are both 65+ years old. God does not guarantee us one more day. We will not see many more years.”

“So?”

“So, it’s time for you to stop pushing your body so hard. No one will be critical of you if you work less.”

“You’ve more than established that you are not lazy. You have met the enemies (weeds, faulty wiring, leaky roofs, outdated home décor, worn out appliances, and cracked drywall) and mastered each one.”

“How am I supposed to defeat those enemies if I don’t do it myself?”

His question thrilled me. It gave me an opportunity to remind him of one of my favorite Andy Griffith episodes, Bargain Day.

Here is a summary.

Aunt Bea bought a side of beef from a discount butcher shop. After she got it home, her freezer stopped working. She was desperate to freeze her meat. Instead of calling a repairman to fix the freezer, she devised every crazy solution to her problem that only Mayberry residents can conceive.

She finally had to confess her folly to Andy, who told her to call the repairman.

Ever frugal, she refused.

With more force, Andy repeated, “Call the man!”

So, to answer Dan’s question about defeating homeowner enemies, I said, “Call someone to do the hard work. Then pay whatever he charges.”

“That’ll cost a fortune!”

“Call the man.”

“It is ridiculous to pay someone to do things I can do myself.”

“Call the man!”

“I’ll wait forever for someone to come.”

“Call the man!!”

“We’ll destroy our retirement savings!”

“Call the man!!!” I said. “Remember we’re on our way out.”

“Ahhh, Deb.”

“CALL THE MAN!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

NO, WE ARE NOT!

Dan and I grocery shop together. Each of us carries a shopping list and pushes a cart. We separate as we enter the store and meet again at the registers. It’s a time-efficient way to carry out a task.

Today Dan dropped me off at the store’s entrance because it was raining. He parked the car. Then we walked into the store.

There a young woman spoke to us.

“I knew you two were a couple!” she said. “You’re adorable!”

Now, hear me.

Our 16-month-old granddaughter is adorable.

Kittens and puppies are adorable.

Dan and I are not adorable.

Jessica Tandy is adorable in Driving Miss Daisy, as is Morgan Freeman.

Ed Asner’s character in Up is adorable, though crotchety. Helen Hayes is an icon for adorability.

Dan and I are years away from being adorable. I’ll thank people to recognize that.

Besides, who approaches strangers in a store to make trifling comments? I don’t.

I’m betting this woman never tells two 30-year-olds they are adorable.

Why was she comfortable telling us we were? Did she think we appreciated being reminded we are no longer young or middle-aged?

She saw we did not struggle to stand erectly. Neither of us used a motorized cart. I wasn’t wearing old-lady shoes. Dan had not pulled the waistband of his pants up under his armpits.

We are competent, independent, post middle-age adults. Both of us use smartphones and bank online. We navigate roundabouts, even dress ourselves.

Yet, people expect us, this unadorable couple, to accept sugar-coated, old-people comments with grace.

They wait for our “Why, thank you.” Then they watch us shuffle away, hoping we make it to our parked cars.

This woman should be glad I wasn’t carrying a cane.

After we finished shopping, Dan and I approached the registers to pay for our purchases.

Here another young woman smiled and asked, “Did you find everything you needed, Honey?”

I cringed.

Then, handing me my receipt, she said, “Thank you, Sweetie.” She made a point of lifting my gallon of milk into the cart for me.

Had it not been raining, I might have asked Dan, “Think we can get all this home on our skateboards?”

Business owners should train employees to be courteous but not coddling; professional, not patronizing.

Spare me the special treatment.

It will be worse this winter.

Well-meaning folks offering arms to us as we walk across icy parking lots. Neighbors asking if we need them to run our errands so we can avoid driving on snow-covered roads.

Not to mention those infernal reminders to bundle up, call if you need help, and don’t risk breaking a hip or getting the flu. It can be dangerous “for people your age.”

We are not adorable. We’re too young for such niceties.

God willing, we will one day be adorable.

Don’t rush us.

Unadorable Couple in Alaska July 2018

PRIDE GOES BEFORE DESTRUCTION

Since I am searching for part-time writing/editing work to do at home, I joined several job boards.

One board suggested I take tests to rate my skills. High test scores on an applicant’s Profile impress potential employers.

Sounds reasonable, I thought.

I opted to take the tests.

Tests for writing or editing included Spelling, Word Usage, Punctuation, Grammar, etc.

Cinches.

I began with the Spelling Test. Not only did I score 100%, but I completed the test faster than any other person did.

My confidence increased. I moved on to the Word Usage Test.

This test contained 40 sentences with blanks in them and several word choice options for each blank. The timer gave me 45 seconds to select a word, and that choice was final. I could not review my answers after I finished the test.

My hope of scoring 100% on this test dissolved by the time I completed five sentences. I approached panic by the time I completed ten.

In my defense, these were challenging word selections. No affect/effect, between/among, bring/take, can/may or other easy choices.

One test item required me to select the best word from these options: endless, everlasting, interminable, never-ending, timeless, eternal and unending.

In 45 seconds.

This was synonym nitpicking.

I scored in the 80-something percentile.

So now, beside my 100% rating in Spelling on my Profile, will appear an 80-something percentile rating in Word Usage.

Hoping to hone my writing skills, I bought ProWritingAid, an online editor and personal writing coach.

This program tests the quality of my writing based on these qualities: Style, Grammar, Readability, Overuse of Words, Clichés, Wordiness, Diction, Sentence Lengths and others.

Based upon its evaluation, ProWritingAid gives me an overall score and suggests specific improvements.

The first time I scanned this blog post with ProWritingAid, it assigned me a score of 68/100.

The writer of this post, it said, used too many words, lacked style, and didn’t vary her sentence lengths.

Admitting I am a not-as-good-as-I-thought-I-was writer stings.

Why?

Scoring high on a word usage test and meeting the standards of an electronic editor gain me nothing.

But my performance on them holds the power to make me either ecstatic or miserable.

Is it pride that causes me to aim for perfection?

Do I expect being a good writer to affirm my worth?

I sometimes ponder those unanswerable questions, but mostly I ponder issues like this one.

Should I write “I was sad, or I was melancholy?” Sad is too general, but melancholy is flowery.

I was disappointed?” No, disappointed is weak.

I was unhappy?” No, I was much more than unhappy.

I was crushed?” No, I’m not discussing pretzels.

“I was inconsolable? No, too many letters.

Then my scrutiny leads me to have this conversation:

“Hey, Dan, listen to this. Which sounds better?

“I was sad.”

“I was melancholy.”

“I was disappointed.”

“I was unhappy.”

I was crushed.”

“Or, I was inconsolable.

Dan:   “Don’t they all mean sad?”

Deb:    “Yes, but which one sounds best?”

Dan:   “Well, if you were sad, why don’t you just write ‘I was sad’?”

Deb:    “No! Sad is the worst choice! Anyone can write I was sad.”

Before you assign me to a home for the ridiculously insane, name the meaningless, prideful longing that torments you because you can’t achieve it? Is it:

  • Receiving “exceeds expectations” on your annual review?
  • Aching to be thinner than your girlfriends?
  • Trying to earn more money than your siblings?
  • Striving to outdo other teachers, dancers, or piecrust bakers so you can be best?
  • Having your house guest-ready all the time?

Does failing to meet these goals make you feel sad (melancholy, disappointed, unhappy, crushed, inconsolable)?

My long-term goal for years has been to write and to have an outlet for my writing.

I have achieved those goals.

“Why,” I ask, “am I not content?”

Dan answers, “Deb, you need to learn to just be.”

“Be what?”

“Just be.”

“Okay. Tell me how to just be.”

“I can’t tell you how.”

“Okay. I’ll work on it.”

“You’re missing the point. Don’t work on it. Just be.”

“But I want to just be better than anyone else does!”

 

 

 

 

 

IT IS WHAT IT IS

Two tough days for me each year are the days I go to the dentist for cleanings.

I’ve gone to the dentist since I was a child. I know the dentist and her staff are my friends. I like them. I just don’t like what they do.

At the dentist’s office last Monday, I said with confidence to the hygienist, “You should find less plaque buildup on this exam. I have a new toothbrush with a built-in timer. I now brush for two full minutes twice a day.”

I waited for a bit of praise, but I didn’t get it.

I got this instead.

“Four minutes,” said the hygienist.

“What?” I asked.

“Brush for four minutes at bedtime, two minutes on top and two minutes on bottom. Two minutes in the morning is good, though.”

Just when I think I’ve adhered to the rules, the rules get tougher.

I realize that I pay my dental professionals to care about and care for my teeth.

If I am unhappy, I can stop visiting them any time I choose. But I won’t  do that.

My teeth are important to me.

But today, so many experts (paid and unpaid) tell me how to take care of myself that I am overwhelmed with “good” advice.

From computer, television, and smartphone screens, from billboards, and from literally tons of unsolicited mail I pull from my mailbox, professionals offer me their advice.

Medical doctors say I should spend several hours each week exercising.

Opticians urge me to wear sunglasses when I am outside and safety glasses when I mow.

Dermatologists tell me to wear SPF 30 sunscreen.

Naturalists tout the benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar.

Audiologists say I should wear ear protection.

Personal trainers insist that I wear weights on my wrists and ankles.

Therapists whisper, “Go to your happy place.”

Psychiatrists tell me to take antidepressants and practice cognitive behavioral therapy.

Herbalists tell me to drink green tea.

Nutritionists tell me to stop eating salt, sugar, fat, wheat, gluten, dairy products, eggs, soy, artificial colors or flavors; meats from animals treated with antibiotics, steroids, or hormones; fish bred and grown in dirty water; and plants that have been exposed to herbicides or pesticides.

Apparently, Mark Twain got it right when he wrote, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”

I am all for being as healthy, comfortable, attractive, and active as I can be. But this overload of “healthful advice” is oppressive.

As a good friend said to me this week, “Facts are facts. It is what it is. I am getting older.”

We all are. No one has yet developed a product, activity, or mindset that will stop the aging process.

In 2 Corinthians 4:16, the Apostle Paul acknowledged that our outer selves are wasting away. He encouraged us to be focused upon being renewed inwardly day by day.

Inspired advice.

I throw away 99% of the advertisements I find in my mailbox.

I did recently, however, save a brochure urging me to make my final arrangements now so when I die, my grieving family will be spared that task.

That, I deemed to be advice worth heeding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KIDS, CAMERAS, AND COATED ASPIRIN

Occasionally, I drop an allergy pill or a low-dose aspirin while filling my weekly medicine boxes.

Like any responsible grandparent of young grandchildren, I assiduously search for the renegade pill.  I sweep the area, use a flashlight to look under furniture and appliances, and vacuum the whole room, even going so far as to dig through the disgusting crud inside the sweeper bag in search of that tiny, round object. No pill.

But, let my adorable, angelic, toddling granddaughter enter the house, and before I can even pick her up and cover her face with kisses,  she spots that lost pill and makes a beeline for it, her mouth already open to eat it.

The same is true of a missing sewing needle, earring, or dried up green pea hiding behind a kitchen table leg.

How does this happen? Do kids have an as-yet undiscovered magnetic aptitude that pulls them to things they aren’t supposed to have?

In 1986 Dan and I were given a “free” (ha) trip to Hawaii. Lara was 7 at the time and Ryan was 4.

Shortly before we were to leave, Dan and I had strewn our house with suitcases, camera equipment, shoes, and clothes we would take on our trip.

Which of those things attracted our kids?

Dan’s brand new, $400 Canon AE-1 camera, of course.

In a feat requiring mechanical ability neither of them should have had, they unattached (broke off) the little metal doohickey (a technical term) on top of the camera that the flash apparatus was supposed to slide into.

On another occasion, Lara opened a bottle of Wite-Out (remember that stuff?) and painted her doll’s face with it. I don’t know where that doll is today, but I guarantee you those white stripes are still on her face.

She also got into my jewelry box, selected, and thoroughly chewed up (yes, with her teeth) the only nice gold necklace I owned.

Her brother opened a bottle of red nail polish and painted our bedroom wallpaper with it. He also broke the windshield in his dad’s truck as he sat inside it one particularly boring, sunny day, and popped open a spring-loaded umbrella he found under the seat.

Dan and I had bought the most popular toys of the day for those kids.

But what kid wants to play with toys when there are expensive cameras, bottles of Wite-Out, and spring-loaded umbrellas to play with?

Perhaps parents should hide toys inside jewelry boxes and camera cases, underneath the seats of their automobiles, and behind refrigerators and couches.

Those parents could then showcase forbidden things like cameras, nail polish, and gold necklaces, inviting kids to investigate them.

Maybe the kids would push past those oh-so-obvious non-kid items to search out the toys secreted away in unlikely places.

But, probably not.

Reverse psychology rarely works with kids.

I tried it more than once.

“One of these days,” I said to my seven-year-old, “you’ll be big enough to help Mommy pick green beans, but you’re still too little for such an important job. I guess I’ll have to pick the beans by myself.”

The named seven-year-old, of course, ignored me and continued fashioning a laser sword out of a hot dog roasting skewer and a full roll of aluminum foil.

Kid experiences like these are what cause old parents to sit in rocking chairs on their front porches, drooling, and picking fuzz balls off old, holey sweaters.

FENCES

My grandchildren and I take many walks around my neighborhood.

Sometimes we encounter a sign that reads: Warning: This yard is protected by an invisible fence.

The homeowner has placed this fence around his yard to restrict his dog from roaming the streets. Often a compliant dog sits or runs within that yard, but it never approaches us.

Those are not the only invisible fences I encounter.

The most restrictive invisible fences are erected by your enemy and mine, Satan.

Satan often erects invisible fences inside our minds. Here are some of his fences I have encountered.

  1. Warning: You are not good enough to have a relationship with God. Stop expecting one.
  2. Warning: You have nothing of value to contribute to the world. Stop trying to be a giver.
  3. Warning: You are a woefully flawed wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. Stop sharing your life with others.
  4. Warning: God lets bad things happen to good people. Stop trusting His plan for your life.

More than once those fences and others like it have stopped me in my spiritual tracks. Sometimes I remain stuck there much too long.

I remain stuck until I recall some of the things Scripture tells me about Satan. These include:

  1. When he [Satan] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
  2. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
  3. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
  4. The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest (John 10:10).

Why would I allow such a one to dictate to me what I should and should not do?

But sometimes I do listen to Satan’s lies because there is usually an element of truth in what he whispers to me.

  1. I am not good enough to have a relationship with God, but God, out of His infinite grace and great love, offers it anyway.
  2. Through my own efforts, I cannot offer anything of value to the world, but God graciously works through me to accomplish His good purposes.
  3. I am a flawed wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, but God has put me in those relationships. He will bless me with the ability to function well in them.
  4. God does allow seemingly bad things to happen to good people. But God’s wisdom is higher than our wisdom. He is always working to bring about what is ultimately good for us. He asks us to trust Him, even when situations don’t make sense to us.

If we allow him, Satan will steal all the joy Christians are meant to experience. He will kill our hope of attaining eternal life. He will destroy any witness we can offer the world.

Satan relentlessly attempts to “fence us in.” God, on the other hand, offers us lives of freedom in Christ.